When the start of the league kicks off for boys soccer in the Central California Athletic League, Turlock High head coach Doug Sperry is anticipating his squad to be in the mix for the title and perhaps more.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 16-6-5 season that saw them win one final Central California Conference title in the process.
The new league momentum will start with the midfield that includes a plethora of talent for Sperry and the ‘Dogs.
“We have a lot of very important returners; I would say the strength of our team this year is going to be our midfield,” said Sperry. “Eight returners from last year, obviously, we lost some important pieces but we have a lot of important returning starters.”
The team includes a pair of defenders that Sperry expects a bigger year from in Christian Martinez and Orlando Jimenez.
“Those guys in the back should play a big role and our midfield should be really strong,” said Sperry. “It is a very talented sophomore class and some will definitely start, a really good class.”
That sophomore class includes six who have been moved up to varsity.
The newcomers will join a varsity squad that went 7-2-3 in their final year competing in the CCC.
The heart and soul of the team, according to coach Sperry, is Isaiah Johnson, who has started since his sophomore year and is now a senior and could contend as one of the best in the CCAL.
“I think the key to all the success we have had is probably Isaiah Johnson who is kind of a rock,” said Sperry. “He does a little bit of everything and plays every minute, defensively and offensively. He is the guy who hasn’t gotten too much credit last few years, but has been just as important as anyone out here.”
Senior Beni Mejia is back for the ‘Dogs, after he was the CCC’s Most Valuable Player and earned All-Journal Player of the Year honors a year ago.
So far, this entire team is already seeing a connection that is unique according to Sperry.
His expectations couldn’t be any higher but competing with the likes of Pitman, Gregori, Modesto, Enochs and Downey won’t be an easy road ahead.
“We had a lot of success last year and a tough loss in playoffs,” said Sperry. “I think the juniors and saw it last year and the vibe so far has been great. Those guys have been with the program for a long time and we had great practices to start off and everything has been great so far. They have high expectations for themselves.
“The new league changes a lot of things since we haven’t competed against them that much and coming from a competitive league playing every game and each game is important,” he added. “They know that, but it is just going to be different, different process to go through, playing at a new school and new field, a lot of change and I am not sure on what to expect but we are excited. There is a lot of talent in that league but our expectations are always the same and we are shooting to win league and keep high expectations.”
Turlock will open up the season at home against Merced at 6 p.m. Nov. 26.